The Commission of Inquiry into land matters has requested for internal working documents of Amobet Investments Limited, a company owned by Lands Minister Betty Amongi.
Amongi is battling charges of influence peddling and conflict of interest for allegedly using her position as a minister and a member of the Departed Asian Property Custodian Board to acquire properties through the company which she co-owns with her sister.
The company reportedly acquired possession of four prime government properties in different parts of Kampala. They include Plot 29, Acacia Avenue in Kololo, a house on Prince Charles Drive, Kololo, land in Industrial area and another piece of land in Mengo-Kibuga.
Records indicate that Amongi’s company; Amobet Investments Limited, secured approval for the property within two days of submitting the application and agreed to pay only 550,000 Shillings per month for each of the four properties.
George William Bizibu, the Executive Secretary of the Departed Asian Property Custodian Board told the probe committee earlier that he had informed the Board about the availability of the property, shortly before he received an application, filed by one Henry Mubiru, from Amobet Investments Limited.
But Amongi earlier told the committee that she was unaware of the transactions undertaken by Mubiru, on behalf of her company.
As the committee resumed its investigation today, its chairperson Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, asked Amongi whether it was okay for her to work with someone who ‘steals government land’. However, Amongi insisted that her company had not stolen any property since it was availed by the Departed Asian Property Custodian Board.
This response angered Bamugemereire who demanded answers on how comfortable the minister is to work with land grabbers. Amongi begged not to comment on the question but said that that the custodian board had problems with more than 500 properties, other than the four that are being investigated.
Bamugemereire however, reminded Amongi of the provisions of the Leadership Code Act that prohibit leader’s from holding any contract with a government body that they have control over. A leader who contravenes this provision is liable to vacate office or be dismissed.
Bamugemereire further questioned Amongi on whether she had control over the Custodian Board and if her company was used as a special purpose vehicle to acquire government property. But the minister twisted the answer, instead, asking if the commission wanted her to respond to the question.
At this point, tempers flared in the committee as the justice threatened to ‘change the game.’
Earlier, Amongi asked for time to consult her lawyer on whether or not to read sections of the Leadership Code Act.
Amongi later told the commission that the matter under probe is a smaller portion of what her company does and that she would avail information indicating taxes the company pays to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) from other businesses.
The company, she says, has seven members of staff but later changed the number of three permanent staff, after she was asked to table a record of payments to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). The NSSF Act requires that a company employing more than five salaried employees registers them with NSSF for payment of benefits.
The commission has now asked Amongi, to present the company’s Tax Identification Number and all internal working documents of her company.